Friday, February 27, 2009

Guide Preview: San Diego Padres

Well, it's the end of the week, and that brings us to the final NL West team preview - the San Diego Padres. There's a lot going on with the Padres these days, and very little of it is good. I really feel bad for Padres fans - they're team is stuck in a really bad situation, and there's very little chance of them getting out of it cleanly. Hopefully, as the organization goes through these changes, they make the best possible moves that can pay dividends for the team in the near future. In the immediate future, though, it's hard to see much good happening for the Pads.

As before, this preview is meant to be a summary of what the three main baseball preview magazines are saying about the team's 2009 season. I've included quotes and other information from each of the them - Sporting News, Athlon, and Lindy's. I've also included some statistics about each magazines' success at predictions over the last ten years. Be sure to check out the Team-by-Team Season Preview index for other guide previews over the next few weeks.

My original intention was to completely refrain from providing any opinion. I was afraid that I would have too much to say about some teams and too little about others. But, after doing a few of these now, I feel like there's room for some personal commentary. I think it'll add a little bit of personality to the preview. But I don't want to make my opinion the focus of the post, so I'll put it near the end. Please feel free to ignore it; I've never claimed to be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to all 30 teams. With that said, on with the "combined" team preview for the...

San Diego Padres
Last Year: 63 - 99, 5th Place, NL West

Since 1999

This YearLast Year
Avg Pred.Avg Finish
Sporting News5



* Sporting News average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 - 2001, 2003 - 2004, 2006 - 2008
** Athlon average includes preview guides from these years: 1999 - 2003, 2006 - 2008

Team Notes

The story of San Diego's offseason was not the typical one of optimism. Instead, it was all about the problems in the team's front-office, and the upheaval that it caused. This was not unnoticed by the writers.
"Just when it appeared the franchise had hit bottom, the downward spiral continued. Instead of providing a respite from despair, the Padres' offseason only served to amplify what ails them.

The winter got off to a rough start when the Padres informed Trevor Hoffman, the team's record-setting closer and face of the franchise, that they don't intend to bring him back in 2009. The Padres didn't handle the parting as skillfully as they should have, and Hoffman said he felt 'blindsided' by the team's treatment.

Then general manager Kevin Towers was forced to entertain trade offers for the team's most desirable commodity, starter Jake Peavy. The Padres are having financial issues, in large part because of owner John Moores' divorce, so they began shopping Peavy 10 months after signing him to a three year, $52 million extension. Only after a proposed trade with the Cubs fell through did it appear likely that Peavy would be staying put.

While the Padres' payroll is being cut from $73 million to about $40 million, the team lacks the nucleus of homegrown talent to keep pace. A shortage of prospects in the pipeline has caught up with them in a division where Arizona, Los Angeles, and Colorado have proven adept at mining talent on the farm. (Lindy's)"
It's truly a depressing aspect of the organization, but it doesn't need to be dwelt on too much. It's obviously a major issue, but that doesn't mean that there aren't positives for the team that deserve a little mention. Jake Peavy is definitely number one on that list (assuming he doesn't get dealt, of course).
"The Padres' party line is that they lost 99 games with Peavy, but they certainly didn't lose 99 games because of Peavy. He had a dropoff from his Cy Young Award-winning season of 2007 but remains a fiery competitor who's not afraid to voice his opinion about the team's direction. (Athlon)"
The Padres also have a star in first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez, an underappreciated player who was an All-Star last season and who won the Gold Glove.
"Gonzalez, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, is a perfect example of the value of patience. Unable to find a spot in the lineup with the Marlins and Rangers, the San Diego native returned home and has paid dividends for the Padres, with a combined 90 home runs and 301 RBIs in the last three seasons. (TSN)"
Spotlight Quote

I'm not trying to dwell on the negatives, but it would be dishones to ignore them. Here's one last dose of pessimism from TSN's "View from the Other Dugout":
"What a sad state of affairs. So much for all that talk about a new park providing a basis for long-term competitiveness of a team. This is a bad team and it doesn't have any reason to expect to get better. It's one thing to go with young players. The problem for the Padres is they don't have young players to develop. The farm system is a mess
They have two players that other teams would want. There is Jake Peavy, who they spent the winter trying to trade so they could slash payroll. What the heck - he'll be worn out by the time this team has a chance to compete anyway. Then there is first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. He has been a great story since he got to the Padres. He is one of the best hitters in the game."

Two years ago, the Padres had to play a one-game playoff game with the World Series-bound Rockies to determine which of the two 89-win teams would claim the Wild Card. It was a disappointing end to the season - ask any Padre fan about that Holliday play-at-the-plate - but there was plenty of reason for hope the next year. Something happened that off-season, and the Padres entered 2008 with much lower expectations. Even with those low expectations - all three of these preview magazines predicted a 4th place finish - the Padres underperformed, losing 99 games.

And then this offseason came around, and it got even worse. There was the unforgivable way they treated future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, in an effort to "save money", yet they activated Brian Giles' $9 million club option. They also shopped around Jake Peavy, but failed to get the Cubs to bite fully. From what I understand, this is all a result of the owner's divorce proceedings. It's a sad circumstance, and I hope the club's "sale" to Jeff Moorad works out well. But with all the turmoil in the club and with all the cost-cutting moves that they've had to make, it's impossible to predict good things for this team.

Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez are still quality players, and the team could always find some sort of gear that no one suspects is there, but it's pretty unlikely. It's a good thing for the other teams in the West, as it makes the division that much easier to win, but that's not going to make any San Diego fan happy. I certainly hope for the fans' sakes that the Padres put up a respectable season, but I just don't think it's going to happen.


The Common Man said...

The Padres' front office is undoubtedly a mess, and their farm system does suck. That said, I can't fault them for the Hoffman situation. I realize that he was the heart of the team and all, but he's a 40 year old closer for a team that is going to finish well below .500. He's just not an expense that a team like the Padres can afford. Giles may not be a great guy (according to his girlfriend), but he did have a 137 OPS+ last year in a park that's murder on lefty batters. Assuming he is amenable to being traded at this year's deadline, Giles is either a star on a surprise contender (if the Pads actually make a run) or great trade bait.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

Ditto what Common Man said

lar said...

I understand what you're saying about Hoffman, and I probably agree with most of it. Maybe I shouldn't have said "unforgivable".

But, I know some Padres fans from San Diego and they loath what the organization did to Hoffman. Sure, Hoffman isn't a top 5 or top 10 closer anymore, but the Padres also aren't a team with any shot whatsoever of playing meaningful ball in September, so it's not like an aging, average closer would be wasting a roster spot. And, when you take that into consideration along with the fact that he's such an important player to fans, you might, as an organization, have to eat that extra $2 million to show your fans that you care about them (they offered him $4mil, and he signed with the Brewers for $6mil - that effectively says that he's not worth $2mil to the club).

It's a crappy position for a team to be in, when a franchise hero is old and on his way out. His performance isn't worth what he commands, but, in most cases, the ill will that you generate with your fan base isn't worth the amount of money that you're trying to save. It's something that needs to be handled delicately, and, I think everyone will agree, "delicate" is not how the Padres handled this.

It happened with Cal Ripken, but the O's were smart enough not to do anything - there definitely was no amount of money saved that would have been worth the backlash they would've received from that. Twins fans were lucky not to have to see this happen with Puckett. Braves fans sort of saw it happen with Maddux and Glavine, but the backlash wasn't very big because they still had Smoltz and/or Chipper on the team to give that hero/nostalgia value. But, in a couple of years time, the same thing is going to happen to Chipper, and the Braves will need to figure it out.

JPadre said...

They could have kept Hoffman (and should have) if they didn't exercise their option with Giles. They didn't want to let Giles go without gettting something for him, but he's a 38 year old with great OBP that can't run, on a team with no RBI guy in the 2-3 spot to drive him in. They tried to trade him last year but he didn't want to go?

I'm a huge Padres fan and sadly I still have hope. Contrary to what they say they have some decent young talent. Kouzmanoff will be 20+ HR, 90 RBI guy this year, and I expect the same out of Chase Headly and Scott Hairston. Jody Gerut is going to be a pleasant surprise in center, I hope he can get into a leadoff role and followed by eckstein, Giles and Adrian. They have lacked leadership the last 3 years. I think that Eckstein, Henry Blanco, and Cliff Floyd will bring some great Veteran leadership and Adrian should step up as well. I think the talent they have is underrated and in a weak division like the NL West you can't count anyone out. Especially when you have Peavy and Young. The Bull Pen was one of the best in the league two seasons ago and I think they can get back there, Balsley is a great Pitching Coach. If they can get Prior out on the roster maybe we can have a comeback player of the year! I'm sure that Bell can't replace Trevor, but we can hope that he will hold his own.

Everyone here is excited about Jeff Morad. We loved John Moores and what he did for SD and revived Downtown. He brought some of the most competitive teams in Padres History. Too bad his wife is a money grubbing whore. That's the best thing about Spring. We can all hope and no one can prove us wrong until the season gets going.

The Common Man said...

@ JPad

Wow, um, I don't know the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Moores, do you? That seems a tad harsh and irrational, which I suppose we should expect given the comically optimistic, homer-iffic, toe-the-local-media-line tenor of the rest of your comment. Hoffman's lost his fastball, and it's reduced the effectiveness of his change-up. I'll make a bet with you, if Trevor Hoffman has more saves than and posts a better ERA than Heath Bell, I'll eat my Twins t-shirt autographed by Ben Revere.

@ lar

You make a good point about squandering and promoting good will. And the Pads did handle this situation with a distinct lack of grace. And it would have been smarter to play up Hoffman's contribution to the team and give him a parade out of town, but virtually all of the people who are so angry about Hoffman now, will have plenty of good will in their hearts the next time the Pads field a competitive team. And, if Bell is successful and Hoffman flops, the Pads will look terrific and flocking seagulls like JPad there will be singing their praises.